MARATHONS ARE DIFFICULT.
Now imagine running seven of them in seven days.
Now imagine running them on seven different continents in that time span.
Now, just to make it that more difficult, imagine completing all of that with just 5% vision.
That’s the task facing Cork’s Sinead Kane when she attempts to become the first Irish woman to complete the World Marathon Challenge and enter the Guinness Book of World Records as the first legally blind person to finish the event.
During the week-long race, competitors will fly by charter plane and must run standard 42.2km marathon distances at Union Glacier (Antarctica), Punta Arenas (Chile), Miami (USA), Madrid (Spain), Marrakech (Morocco), Dubai (United Arab Emirates) and Sydney (Australia).
Kane has been training for this event since last year. However, with an entry fee of €80,000 — it’s normally €40,000 but she has to pay for her guide John O’Regan’s entry too — a lot of her focus has been on raising sponsorship for the event.
It has not been easy.
“I’ve had this challenge on my mind since about January 2016 so it’s not something that’s just developed overnight. I suppose it shows that, with any goals, there has to be preparation and you have to be willing to put in the hard work and, of course, having to raise the money.
“Unless you’re a millionaire or something,” she joked.
“But I think that might make it a bit more rewarding, that I’ve put in the hard work. That said, there’s definitely been times over the last year that I’ve wanted to give up, to walk away.
“There were two different companies last year that were very, very interested in sponsoring me — they more or less said yes — but, because of Brexit, they backed out and said they didn’t have the funds.”
Kane says, rather than being a deterrent, those set-backs actually emboldened her.
However, this week Allianz came on board as a sponsor and will cover Kane’s entry fee while O’Regan will be a guest of race director, and Galway native, Richard Donovan.
Source: Global Running Adventures/Vimeo
As well as marathon fatigue, jet lag and sleep deprivation, competitors will also have to suffer temperature variations of up to 50°C.
For Kane, there’s the additional problem of her crippling fear for flying.
“In 2015 I was due to fly to Chile to take part in the Volcano marathon,” she said.
“John (O’Regan, her guide) was in the middle seat, there was a stranger in the aisle seat and I was at the window.
“When the doors closed and they announced over the intercom that they were getting ready for take off, I just panicked.
“Because I was next to the window, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to make it out in time if anything happened. I began to experience a panic attack, and one of the flight attendants came down and tried to calm me down.
“John said to her that I was just having a panic attack and he eventually calmed me down by telling me that, even if we got off the plane, our bags would still go to Chile.
“When I thought about, if the plane crashed nobody was going to get off but, at the time, my thought process was so irrational that I was insisting on getting off the plane.”
O’Regan will once again serve as Kane’s guide on this challenge.
The Youghal woman –who in 2009 qualified as Ireland’s first legally blind solicitor – says she doesn’t think she could trust anyone else to be her guide on a challenge like this.
“John’s great, I know I can trust him and he’s so experienced. Someone asked me the other day if I thought I might be able to run with a different guide but I think we’ve just built up such a trust, I’m not sure I could.”
In terms of training, Kane hasn’t been able to do as much as she’d have liked after a foot injury in October.
However, given everything she’s had to overcome so far, few would bet against her completing the World Marathon Challenge and entering the record books.